9/3/13

ELYSIUM - REVIEW


From Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9, comes Elysium.

Expect lots of dirt, a poor-vs-rich plot and Sharlto Copley acting nuts.

I wasn't expecting much from this Matt Damon-starring, generic-looking sci-fi action flick. The trailers promised nothing too new or particularly fascinating and it just seemed like District 9 all over again. The film itself was much better than I expected. Elysium really does stand up on its own and, in fact, surpasses District 9 in many ways. For one thing, its metaphor is a little more subtle than it was in that other movie and also you've got some characters to actually care about this time! Matt Damon turns out to be the perfect choice for the role of a normal guy given a death sentence who becomes desperate to make his way to Elysium, a space station packed full of high-end medical equipment for the super rich that live there worry-free. Damon makes a likeable and convincing everyman while still pulling off the action sequences brilliantly. The futuristic world the film sets up is an interesting, eclectic mix of super-powerful robots, kinda crappy-looking robots, Wall-E-esque post-apocalyptic landscapes, Apple-style technology, cool, demented, high-tech army gadgets and badass space shuttles that can travel through space in a heartbeat. The film attempts to portray both the mass poverty on Earth and the select super-rich on Elysium: it does well with that although the latter are kinda cartoonish. Jodie Foster plays the shady (French?) person in charge of Elysium and comes off about as human as those police robots, which I guess is probably the point. Even William Fichtner, who pops up as a key citizen of Elysium, looks like he's playing either some kind of alien or some kind of android.

Apparently, in the future, not only do rich people suck but they walk and talk like Jeff Bridges in Starman.

Weird.

One of the reasons why Elysium surpasses District 9 ever so slightly is the fact that you've got some characters to care about here. Damon's put-upon worker-turned-mech-suit-wearing-rebel goes through so much crap that you can't help but root for him and his friend, who stands by him after he is exposed to radiation at his factory, is also someone you don't necessarily want to die in the movie. As for Copley's sword-wielding mercenary: he just steals the show and no matter how insane he gets, he's still tons of fun every time he's on screen. Where the film kinda stumbles is with its anti-climactic and predictable ending. There's a love interest, Alice Braga's character, and she feels somewhat tacked-on. Her whole existence rests on the idea that Damon needs motivation to get all the way to Elysium but he already seems to want to go there so she comes off as a bit unnecessary. Plus you know exactly where her arc is headed as soon as you meet her. The ending is a bit muddled in that (SPOILERS) Elysium is taken down a bit too easily through vague computer techno-babble and it gets a tad corny. That said, the ride was loads of fun and you do get to see Damon fight Copley after some welcome gratuitous gore so that's pretty great. Although the use of shaky-cam becomes a bit distracting by the end.

All in all, Elysium may be a more generic effort than District 9 with a more obvious Hollywood vibe but the strong cast, the likeable characters, the great visuals and cool technology should keep you entertained throughout.

One of the better blockbusters of this year.

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